Will the Cleveland Browns be better in 2010? Can the Browns be competitive within their division? I like to think so. In fact I’ll go on record as saying they will be. One reason why they should be improved is quality competition within the team.
In the past, competition on the Browns meant, Frye vs Anderson or DA vs Quinn. Average vs average. All other positions were awarded by default. In other words, no quality depth behind the starters, just bodies.
With the selections of Joe Haden, TJ Ward and Larry Asante in last weeks NFL Draft, the secondary has gone from a weakness to a strength. At least on paper, last years defensive backs pale in comparison to this years players. Starting corners, Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald, had no one to push them. Same with safeties Abe Elam and Brodney Pool. Oh what a difference a year makes.
In Rob Ryan’s defense, if you don’t have corners that can cover, it greatly limits what the defense can do. Joe Haden and newly acquired Sheldon Brown will join Wright and McDonald to form a very formidable unit. Haden and Brown will bring some physicality to the position as well. A trait that was lacking in last years group.
The safety position in Cleveland the last few years could best be described as soft. Brodney Pool was the only play maker among a soft hitting group and he has moved on to the New York Jets. Hold overs Elam and Mike Adams will never strike fear in opposing wide receivers crossing the middle of the field. To his credit, Adams has proven versatile, if not spectacular. Both Ward and Asante are known as viscous hitters and sure tacklers. A much needed skill on the Browns defense. Look for both rookie safeties to become starters at some point this year.
While quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace may not excite Browns fans, at least we won’t have to go through another QB competition. Delhomme will be the starter, with Wallace being a very capable backup. Rookie Colt McCoy will be Mike Holmgren’s project. The plan is for McCoy to sit and learn this year. Just knowing the heir apparent is on the sidelines, could bring out the best in Delhomme.
Cleveland didn’t draft a linebacker this year. Could be that they are very pleased with what they already have. Last year, Eric Barton, D’Qwell Jackson, David Bowens, Jason Trusnik, Kaluka Maiava and Matt Roth were all starters at some point. Also, Marcus Benard played late in the season and showed an ability to sack the QB. Joining this group are newly acquired veterans, Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong. That’s nine quality players battling for the four starting linebacker positions. Good news for Browns fans.
Last year Jerome Harrison finally got the opportunity to be a feature back and responded by rushing for 286 yards and scoring three touchdowns against the Kansas Chiefs. This year he may not even be the starter. Rookie second round pick Montario Hardesty and former Bronco Peyton Hillis, along with James Davis and Chris Jennings, form a very crowded backfield. Hillis can also play fullback where Lawrence Vickers has been the starter. Looks like the Browns just might want to run the ball some this year.
While the wide receiver position on the Browns looked bad at times last year, the quarterback play was even worse. It was amazing at how many poor passes just plain missed their targets. Who knows what another years experience, along with a more accurate QB, will mean to Mohamed Massaquoi, Chansi Stuckey, Brian Robiskie andJosh Cribbs. Rookie Carlton Mitchell will bring some speed to the competition along with size at 6-3 215. I really expect a lot of improvement in this group.
All the great teams seem to have quality depth at all positions. Now I’m not calling the Browns a great team, but the added competition should definitely make them a more improved team this year.